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US official says China trade talks ‘went just fine’

Updated January 10, 2019

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Trump boasted on Twitter on Tuesday that discussions in China were “going very well!” — AFP/File
Trump boasted on Twitter on Tuesday that discussions in China were “going very well!” — AFP/File

BEIJING: The United States and China on Wednesday concluded three days of extended talks to resolve their trade war, with a member of the American delegation saying negotiations “went just fine”.

The US officials arrived in Beijing on Monday for the first sit-down talks since President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed on Dec 1 to a three-month truce in the escalating trade spat.

Asian markets rose on increasing optimism that the two sides would be able to hammer out a deal ahead of a March deadline and avert further import tariff hikes.

A member of the US delegation, Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney, told reporters that the team would return to the United States later on Wednesday.

“I think they went just fine,” McKinney said of the talks as he left the hotel with his luggage, adding the trip “has been a good one for us”.

Trump boasted on Twitter on Tuesday that discussions in China were “going very well!” China’s foreign ministry confirmed the negotiations had ended in Beijing but declined to comment on the outcome, saying details would be released later.

“If it’s a good outcome, it doesn’t just benefit the US and China, but it is also good news for the world economy,” said foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang.

The US delegation, led by Deputy Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish, had been scheduled to end its visit on Tuesday.

“The extension of the talks indicate that both sides take this very seriously,” Lu said.

Washington has been clamouring for an end to the forced transfer - and even theft - of American technology, as well as steep government subsidies for Chinese companies.

The Trump administration also wants Beijing to buy more American goods to narrow a yawning trade gap and allow foreign players better access to the Chinese market.

The US Trade Representative office said Wednesday that the talks focused on “ways to achieve fairness, reciprocity, and balance in trade relations,” as well as the need for “ongoing verification and effective enforcement” of any agreement.

“The talks also focused on China’s pledge to purchase a substantial amount of agricultural, energy, manufactured goods, and other products and services from the United States,” USTR said in a statement.

‘Encouraging words’:

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross signalled on Monday that there was a “very good chance” of reaching an agreement.

China’s economy was more vulnerable to the fallout from the trade war, he said.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook said he has “heard some very encouraging words” about the talks as well.

“I don’t speak for them obviously,” Cook told CNBC in reference to the Trump administration. “I do talk with them and I give them my ideas and thoughts.” The US smartphone maker has felt the pinch of the bruising trade spat, and warned that 2018 revenues would miss its forecast - in large part due to a slump in iPhone sales in China.

The temporary trade war ceasefire came after the two sides imposed import duties on more than $300 billion in two-way trade.

Without a resolution, punitive US duty rates on $200bn in Chinese goods are due to rise to 25 per cent from 10pc on Mar 2.

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2019

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